History of Glidden Drive

Glidden Drive - A Chronicle of Historical Events

Respectfully and lovingly compiled by Mary Clarke and Joanne Conklin in recognition of the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Glidden Drive Association, Inc. in 1992.

Strange that so few ever come to the woods. I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately. - Henry David Thoreau

In 1969 the National Geographic Society discovered Door County, calling it “A Kingdom so Delicious.” One of the choicest morsels in this smorgasbord is the Glidden Drive area. What past events occurred to develop this unique region?

Before Wisconsin was admitted to the Union in 1848, it was a wilderness under the dominion of the British and French, inhabited by Indians. In 1787, it became part of the Northwest Territory; then was organized into the Territory of Wisconsin in 1836. By that year, there were transfers of titles in what is now Door County, including a one-fourth interest in 257 acres, for which the Territorial Governor paid $182.34. Enter the settlers and speculators!

In 1851, Door County was defined and organized as a county, and shortly the value of lands was fixed: improved lands $3 per acre; unimproved lands $2.50 per acre; pine lands $6 per acre.

The township of Laurieville was organized in 1860, but at a protest meeting, citizens were not in agreement with the name. It was decided to choose the British name for the greatest battle of the Crimean War - Sebastopol. Later the Russian spelling was adopted, so it became Sevastopol.

Potawatomi Indians lived along the western shore of Lake Michigan, and had a summer camp in a clearing just south of the present Glidden Drive, now named Onanguisse. Years later, settlers found hundreds of arrowheads, and pieces of decorated pottery in the sandy soil. Mr. Neville of the Neville Museum in Green Bay brought workmen to sift the sand for relics, which have been displayed in the museum.

The area was heavily wooded with virgin pine and cedar. Before 1884, a lumber company owned by Mashek and Horn moved in to harvest the timber, hiring Indians and settlers from the region. They named the harbor “Lily Bay” for Mr. Horn’s daughter, Lily.

The firm built a large camp erecting a stream mill, boarding house, general store, black smithy, and a pier about 100 feet wide, which extended 400 to 500 feet into water twelve feet deep. Using both sides of the pier, as many as nine ships at a time could dock, be loaded with logs, and lumber, and set sail for lake ports. On the shore, awaiting transport, lumber was piled eight feed high. Pine logs, thicker than a man’s body, cost $3.00 a thousand.

Because Green Bay waters froze in winter, Goodrich boats from Chicago docked at Lily Bay with suppliers for Sturgeon Bay stores, and these goods were hauled to town by horse and wagon.

When the railroad bridge was to be built across the waters of Sturgeon Bay, extending the Ahnapee and Western Railway Co. into town in 1894, all of the iron and steel for the bridge arrived at Lily Bay and was hauled to town by the father of John Wester, grandfather of Ed and Ted Wester, whom we will meet again in the next century.

The company store carried shoes, yard goods, groceries, and in the basement, barrels of sugar, vinegar, and whiskey. On St. Patrick’s Day, the green flag was raised above the store, and glasses of whiskey were hoisted in the camp.

In 1894, the lumber company moved its operations to Whitefish Bay, leaving the pier, whose upper structure was destroyed in a few years by winter storms. Small pine and cedar trees, and pine stumps four feet in diameter remained, as well as the boarding house, which was eventually razed. Parts of it were used to build a cabin at Onanguisse.

On of the colorful characters living north of the camp was Joe Mardin, a Civil War Veternary. He had bought land near Shivering Sands Creek in 1893, where he build a shack. South of the creek, he planted apple trees, some of which still remain, though his vegetable garden and hay fields have been completely overgrown.

He was known as “Wildcat Joe Mardin” because he trapped wildcats, then collared and chained them near his shanty. He also captured skunks, using their oil on his long, braided hair, which was trimmed with ribbon. He was very generous with his menagerie, taking it to county and state fairs, and sending crates of skunks to the Chicago World’s Fair on a Goodrich steamer. The vessel pitched, the skunks objected, as did the captain, throwing crates and occupants overboard.

Two years after he purchased the property, Joe announced that nothing less than $500.00 would be an inducement to sell. He envisioned the area as a “capital place for a summer resort.” To further the ideas, he build a four-story hotel, using lumber he found on the beach, fasted with bolts, spikes, wire and twisted iron. He named it “Castle Romance”, but for whom? Pigs occupied the lowest floor, geese were on the second. The third was furnished with beds, chairs, a stove, and a piano for the comfort and entertainment of guests. Pet ducks nested on the top floor penthouse.

For some time he was busy building a bridge over the creek for the convenience of all, and planning a system of boulevards to, and around Mud Lake. Perhaps that was his last dream, for in 1909, he was found in his rocking chair, with his feet in the oven.

Since there was no foundation under the hotel, it soon collapsed, to musical accompaniment.

The Joe Mardin property - 43 acres - was purchased at auction by the Reverend Samuel Groenfeldt, the father of Reverend John Gorenfeldt, who lives just south of Glidden Drive at Onanguisse. The only access to Joes’ property was an overgrown logging trail, so the elder Groenfeldt drove his horse and buggy along the beach. Choosing Joe’s favorite site and using the best of the lumber from “Castle Romance”, he build the first summer home on Glidden Drive in 1913.

The Groenfeldts didn’t have too long of a buggy ride to get the celebrated whitefish at Wester’s. John Wester had purchased a commercial fishing business just north of Onanguisse in 1904. The catches were abundant. He shipped barrels of salted whitefish and herring to cities along the lake. The water at the pier, which he had built, was too shallow for a lake steamer to dock. So, he had to sail out to the larger boat, transfer the heavy barrels of fish, and pick up the large bags of salt and other supplies. No small task for one man.

By the time his boys, Ed and Ted, were old enough to help, trucks could come some distance from the fish shanty, and be loaded by boy-power. With all their labor, the Wester’s received one or two cents a pound for the fish.

After the railroad came to town, they packed the fish in ice, which they obtained from Mud Lake, and took the boxes to the depot. As roads improved, the fish were picked up by truck and taken to Chicago.

In 1928, the sons took over the business from their father. Ted bought a box mill, and supplied boxes to fishermen from Two Rivers to Gills Rock. After about twenty years, Ted sold his shares of the fishing business to his brother, Ed, but kept the box factory.

Later, he acquired a sawmill and used that to make boxes and saw lumber. His father helped to nail boxes until he was over ninety years of age. Eventually, Ted sold the sawmill, but usually wandered over to observe the success of his protégés.

During Ed’s fishing days, while she was able, his wife, Lucille had a small store near the fish house. The store carried a few staples, soft drinks, and goodies. The real attraction was the slot machine, in which many a coin disappeared, and few reappeared.

Ed fished for thirty seven years, until it became unprofitable. Then, in addition to selling sand (deposited on his shore by the lake waves) he agreed to be caretaker for homes and easements along the Drive. His fish house was a haven for men from the Drive, where they swapped stories, bought bait, smoked chubs, had their catches cleaned, and lifted a glass.

Chubs became too expensive to sell, but the lure of Wester’s Fish House continued as a place to get fishing equipment, launch a boat, or learn to tie knots from an expert.

In 1970, John Wester was at rest from his many years of labor. Ed’s booming voice was stilled on 1977. Ted’s quiet chuckle and generous nature were missed by all when he died in 1990. But...that little corner of Door County at the beginning of Glidden Drive will always be known as “Westers”

In the mid-twenties, Orrin Glidden - a banker from Michigan City, Indiana, visited Door County. He stayed in Egg Harbor. Always an entrepreneur, he became interested in the development of property west of Alpine Resort. He bought into that expansion, and originated the golf course. The course was taken over by the Alpine Resort in later years.

In 1928, he purchased lake shore property south of the Whitefish Bay community. Glidden realized that the stretches of sand beach, heavily wooded land, and cool summers would attract those seeking a perfect location for vacation homes. He hired Ewald Schmock, also from Michigan City, to build a narrow, winding road through the tract.

Mr. Schmock, with his wife, Babette, and young son, Tom, moved into a small cottage west of where The Hitching Post now stands. In 1929, the Schmock’s purchased the property (home, barn, ice house, and dock) of Anton Sternard, a Comercial fisherman living south of Bark Road. The home referred to as “The White House”, and later as “The Homestead”, was the first building of the complex surrounding the present Glidden Lodge. The barn, which had housed the Sternard’s cow, was made into a rental cottage. The Schmock’s named it “Indiana” - a link with their previous home.

A camp was build on the grounds to house the men who worked on the building of the road. Mrs. Schmock prepared their meals, earning her well-deserved reputation as a marvelous cook.

The lumberjacks started to clear the way for the road just south of their camp. In those tight quarters, only small, horse-drawn carts could be used to remove the felled trees. A revolving platform was employed for one cart at a time to be pulled onto the rotating turntable. That vehicle was loaded and pulled off to make room for the next. Sticks and stones probably broke their bones, but the one-track road was completed in 1929 conforming to Ewald’s design.

The southern end of Glidden Drive from Westers to Goldenrod Lane was subdivided into lots sixty feet wide, and named “Long Beach Plat” - another tie to Indiana. Mr. Glidden realized the need for restrictions to preserve this prime area, and his foresight has maintained Glidden Drive as a tribute to his name.

With the advent of the Depression, Mr. Glidden was unable to retain the property. He died in 1933 after a year’s illness, leaving his widow, son, and daughter. The Schmock’s, with financial help from family members, were able to gain title to the land.

Their first experience as absentee landlords came with the remodeling and rental of the former Groenfeldt cottage, which they called “Shivering Sands”. That spurred them to enlarge “The Homestead” to accommodate guests, and to build a couple of cottages on their grounds.

At the same time a few vacations and permanent homes were being built along Glidden Drive, which necessitated supplying electricity to the residences. In 1934, Sturgeon Bay Utilities began service at the south end of the Drive, going north as far as there were customers. Wisconsin Public Service began erecting their poles at the north end in 1935, working south. Eventually, they converged south of Goldenrod Lane, with WPS beginning at 3999 Glidden Drive.

The road had been under the jurisdiction of the township. In 1933, it became a county road. As larger truckers were being used for delivery of building materials, the Drive had to be widened and improved. One section had veered toward the lake at Goldenrod Lane, going north along the shore for about 600 feet. Then, turning away from the water, it continued north through the woods. Because this stretch had washed out twice, it had to be rerouted to the present roadway.

There was a group of twelve trees forming an island in the center of the road, which Babette had named “The Twelve Apostles”. With the reconstruction, the apostles were removed and sent forth to spread the word.

By 1938, Ewald and Babette decided that theirs was an ideal spot for a summer lodge. They chose the site of the formers workers’ camp for the hotel. With their innate hospitality, perseverance, and Babette’s genius for preparing luscious meals, how could they fail?

They were involved in every aspect of the construction, even to collecting and hauling beach stones that were used in the interior and exterior of the lodge, and in forming the decorative flower beds leading to the entrance.

In a short time, more cottages were added. Guests were served three delicious meals each day in the lodge dining room, overseen by the cuckoo clock. Fresh flowers from Mama Schmock’s garden graced every table. A picnic lunch was provided for those away for the day.

Fishing parties appealed to early risers; tennis or hiking to those trying to balance the scale; family groups were often swimming or building sandcastles. After dinner - games, books, and puzzles were available in the lounge. Dancing to the jukebox was available in the recreation room. A cocktail lounge was added later. No wonder reservations were required much in advance. The Schmocks’ personality, inspired by their German heritage, won friends who returned each year, bringing offspring and kin.

In the early 1940’s, Ewald requested that the gravel road be paved going past the lodge to eliminate dust. The Drive was blacktopped in 1 1/2 mile stretches as monies were available.

With permanent residents on Glidden Drive, the U.S. Postal Service began its appointed rounds. Mail had been delivered as far as Westers, at first by horse an buggy. Gradually, the mechanized route was extended going north on the Drive only as far as there were year-round homes. Then the carrier turned back, going to Brauer Road and eventually delivery mail to the north end of the Drive coming in from Whitefish Bay Road. After 1969, there were more occupied residences, so the mailman went directly from Westers to Whitefish Bay Road, bringing magazines, catalogues, bills, billet douce, and correspondence from the town treasurer.

Following the trend of many resorts, in 1950 the Lodge no longer served lunch. The Schmocks constructed a restaurant at the north end of Glidden Drive - a rustic log building - which they named “The Hitching Post”. They had spent winters in Arizona, and collected southwestern pottery and artifacts, with which they decorated the interior. Their son, Tom, was the manager for a time.

In March of 1962, a group of neighbors met to discuss the future of Glidden Drive. They appointed Don Barnes to chair the meeting. He stated that the Schmocks had maintained Glidden Drive as a desirable and attractive place in which to live. It was not fair to put the sole burden of continuing this work on them.

After discussion, Tom Schmock moved that a committee be formed to investigate the best means to organize, and report back to the group.

The committee met within the month, and appointed one of the residents, David Moyer, Attorney at Law, to write By-Laws for the organization. They suggested submitting the name, “Glidden Drive Association” for approval to the residents of the Drive.

The first general meeting was held at Glidden Lodge on June 2, 1962. Alan Volkmar was elected President; Richard Vincent, Vice President; Helen Barr, Secretary and Treasurer. A Board of Directors (3) was elected. The suggested name of the organization was approved.

In the first mailing to all property owners in August, 1962, the stated objective of the association was “to preserve the high character, and hence the value of all property abutting Glidden Drive, including your property”. It is only by prohibiting “uses that tend to depreciate the property and the neighborhood, that we can maintain this goal”.

Two years later (1964), the Association was incorporated, so the legal title became, “Glidden Drive Association, Inc.”Also in 1964, two men were seeking a site to introduce conservation methods, which they had noted in other areas. Glidden Drive was chosen for their project because it had been so well maintained. John Brogan and William Fairfield named their development “Glidden Drive Estates”. Mr. Schmock sold the available lake shore lots, and the inland property, most of which was untouched, to these gentlemen.

The “Estates” added Fifteen beach access lanes and a hiking trail on the inland side of the Drive. In 1966, John Brogan withdrew from the project.

All existing homes were issued fire numbers in 1967. Newly built homes were to have a number issued by the Town Chairman for the purpose of fire protection.

Just before the Lodge was to open on Memorial Day in 1970. Mrs. Schmock died in her sleep, leaving Ewald, Tom, Tom’s wife, Joan, and their two daughters, Constance and Peggy.

Joan had been the home economist for Door County. So, she was well qualified to continue the operation of Glidden Lodge.

The possibility of obtaining Rustic Road classification for the Drive was explored in 1977. In September, the Association President was authorized by the Board of Directors to make a decision regarding the Rustic Road status.

A petition was circulated among available residents, and submitted to the Wisconsin Rustic Road Board. It request that Glidden Drive be designated as a Rustic Road. It was approved in May, 1978. The Drive became the first Rustic Road in Door County and is that portion of County Trunk “T” between Brauer Road and Whitefish Bay Road. A tribute to the Glidden Drive Association, Inc.!

In that same year, the Logo was chosen to will appear on all correspondence.

All summer of 1978, Mr. Schmock was still greeting guests in front of the fireplace at Glidden Lodge. He had been afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis for thirty-with years. The following winter, he was granted his wish to join Babette.

Through the dedication and preservation of the Drive by Ewald and Babette Schmock enabled Jens Jensen to say, Glidden Drive “is one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the United States.” We are in debt to the Schmocks, and all who have followed their commitment.

At the instigation of the outgoing President of the Association in 1979, an important innovation was started - the Neighborhood Watch. Coordinators were selected for each section of the Drive, who were to patrol the area, but everyone was to note any suspicious person, vehicle, or sign of forced entry, and notify the sheriff. Signed were posted at each end of the Drive, stating that this area is protected by Neighborhood Watch Patrol.

The process of supplying fire numbers numbers was revised in 1979, with the numbers being issued to the builder. A numbered plate and stand are to be placed at the roadside.

Tom and Joan Schmock maintained the Lodge, Homestead, and cottages until 1984, when they sold all of their property to James and Shirley Talmadge. Three years later, the Tamadges added a sixteen room unit to the complex.

The Association, attentive to the safety of its members, purchased reflective stickers to be placed on the rear bumper or window of their cars. They are Neighborhood Watch emblems and show that the car is owned by a Glidden Drive resident. These stickers were distributed in 1987.

In the same year, blue reflectors were placed on trees along the Drive to assist drivers in inclement weather - heavy fog, snow, etc.

There was a change in the speed limit on the Drive in 1990. It was reduced from 35 to 30 mph at the instigation of the Association.

Unfortunately, there was not speed limit, nor warning signs that Mother Nature was becoming exceedingly agitated. She was about to unleash her energy with whirling winds that caused much destruction along the Drive. She was not satisfied with just cutting a narrow path in April, 1970 by uprooting trees and ripping every shingle from the lake-side roof of one home. She returned in June, 1985, leveling acres of trees and severely damaging more than a half dozen residences north of Goldenrod Lane.

A month after that disaster, the bridge over Shivering Sands Creek was rebuilt, closing access to traffic until September - a great inconvenience for trucks needed to remove toppled trees and debris left after the tornado.

A gradual, but unrelenting rise in the level of the lake was another piece of evidence of the power of nature. Records of water level along the western shore of Lake Michigan have been kept since 1860. You may be qualified to tell your grandchildren that “I was there” when the highest level was reached in October, 1986 - 581.89 feet. The water covered the beach, and eroded the dune in front of many homes. Some residents, fearing the worst, built retaining walls or had rip-rap placed on the shore to repel destructive waves. By 1987, the level had dropped a foot. In February, 1992, it was more than three and a half feet lower.

The Drive had its share of wind, water, and also three devastating fires. In 1957, a home was struck by lightning and burned, leaving only the chimney standing. The owner did not rebuild, but the buyer of the property did erect a home at 3841 Glidden Drive.

The second home caught fire in the winter of 1969, when it was unoccupied, and was destroyed. The owners did rebuild on the site at 4358 Glidden Drive.

In 1985, when the owners were at their daughter’s for dinner before leaving for the south, the home erupted in flames. Their travel trailer was parked at the house and was rescued by neighbors, but the structure at 3959 Glidden Drive was ruined. It was rebuilt by the owners.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The voice of nature is always encouraging”. That thought seems to be a contradiction, following the previous accounts of devastation. For those who have lived or vacationed on Glidden Drive, observing nature and wildlife is so stimulating that depressing thoughts are soon dismissed.

Watching the geese and ducks on the lake, hearing the weird laugh of the loon, seeing swans or a heron - these happenings rouse exhilarating emotions in spring, and pensive ones in autumn.

Songbirds, passing through from early spring to return trips in fall, and those who settle in for the summer, are intrinsic composers, rendering trills, whistles, and chatter, in harmony and counterpoint. Could anyone remain low in spirit after hearing the liquid gold of a wren’s song, or marking the swoop of swallows and martins as they snatch their evening meal?

Quoting John Kieran from his Introduction to Birds: “Who loves and knows the birds will never lack for company outdoors, and ... will be finding old friends and meeting new friends all the days of his life”.

The shoulders of the Drive and the woods beyond present a continuous display of wildflowers. They range in early spring from hepatica, trillium, and dwarf iris, blending into summer’s Black-eyed Susan, cone flower, and tiger lily, to the burst of autumn’s Queen Anne’s lace, wild aster, and goldenrod. Over all of the blossoms, butterflies hover and light, until the monarchs signal the end of summer weather with their flights to the south.

To come around a curve in the Drive, and see a pair of fox urging their cub to come off the road into the safety of the woods; to observe that even in the animal world - a youngster doesn’t always obey, until the honk of a horn persuades it to scramble into the underbrush - that is a picture for the memory book.

In the evening or early morning, deer can be seen going to the lake for a drink, leaving tracks in the sand. Porky has been known to leave a more lasting impression on tool handles, and Bunny shows a penchant for whatever favorite flower has been coddled and nurtured. A skunk’s choice meal of grubs is always under a manicured lawn.

Try to outwit a raccoon in its nightly search for goodies in the garden or refuse pile; or a squirrel that craves seed from a well-filled bird feeder. That is a life’s work, but what a diverting occupation!

Those who have been entrusted with the protection of this select region - Glidden Drive - should give thought to this observation from Aldo Leopoldo:

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Respectfully and lovingly compiled by Mary Clarke and Joanne Conklin.